Thursday, September 21, 2006

Answers for Tough Kids' Questions

By Brandi M. Seals

All kids go through a stage where they ask tons of questions. They are trying to understand the world around them, but that can often leave parents without any answers. Instead of lying to your kids, try to prepare in advance. If you do not know why some lemurs have ringed tails, simply say so. It will help your child understand that all though you are a fountain of knowledge, you cannot possibly know everything. Trust me, that is not a bad thing. Your children will respect the fact that you were honest with them rather then just making up some lame story.

To help out parents of quizzical children, I have the answers to some of those common childhood questions.

What is thunder and why is it so loud?
Thunder is a loud noise created when it lightenings. It is caused by the heating and expansion of air surround a bolt of lightening. The lightening changes the air into plasma and it explodes causing the noise.

The thunder is heard after the lightening is seen because light travels faster than sound. Light travels at 186,000 miles per second and sound travels around 700 miles per hour. The speed of sound varies due to a number of reasons, including air temperature, humidity and air pressure.

Why is the sky blue?
They sky is seen as blue for two main reasons. First is due to the atmosphere. As light enters our atmosphere it scatters in the air. Short-wavelength light scatters more than those with long wave lengths. When you look at the sky we see blue light waves being scattered down at us from the sunlight passing through the air. However, blue does not have the shortest wavelength. Violet does, so the sky should appear violet.

We do not see the sky as violet because of our eyes. People are able to see color because of something called cones that are in the eye. They are sensitive to different wavelengths within the visible spectrum. But, the sky is full of several scattered wavelengths (different colors) and our eyes just are not good enough to pick out violet light when other wavelengths are present. We are, however, good at picking out blue. Therefore, in our eyes the sky is blue.

Why is snow white and grass green?
You can explain why anything is any color by explaining how color works. When light falls on most objects they tend to reflect some of the light falling on them and absorb the rest. The color of the light reflected is the color that we see. Some objects absorb all the light and appear black, while others reflect all light and appear white. This process is known as subtractive color mixing because some colors are taken out of the light.

Snow is white because it reflects all colors equally.

Grass looks green because it absorbs all the colors of the rainbow except green.

How big is the Ocean?
Since 2000, there are five recognized oceans. From largest to smallest they are the Pacific Ocean, the Atlantic Ocean, the Indian Ocean, the Southern Ocean, and the Arctic Ocean. Together they cover a total of 139 million sq mi and have a volume of 319 million cu mi.

Individually they vary greatly in size. The Pacific Ocean covers 69.4 million square miles. The Atlantic Ocean occupies 41.1 million square miles. The Indian Ocean takes up 28.4 million square miles. The newly recognized Southern Ocean (also known as the South Polar Ocean or formerly as the Antarctic Ocean) surrounds Antarctica. Its size changes due to seasonal influences. It ranges from 1 million square miles to 7.2 million square miles. And, the Arctic Ocean covers 5.44 million square miles. To give you an idea how big that is, the Arctic Ocean occupies an area close to 1.5 times the size of the U.S.

This is only a small sampling of some of the difficult questions that kids tend to ask. Try researching some on your own in advance or wait for your child to ask you. Then you can look up the answers together. Learning is a great experience. If everyone was as excited to learn as children are, there would be no stopping what we could achieve.

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